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What instructors should know about how students interpret symbols in physics

What instructors should know about how students interpret symbols in physics

Given by: Dr. Eugene Torigoe, Department of Physics
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Friday, April 18, 2008

Manning Hall room 201
1:00-2:00pm


Abstract:

In studies involving nearly 1000 students we have found that numeric versions of certain questions can have an average scores that are as high as 50% greater than than the score on equivalent symbolic versions.

Analysis of students’ written work as well as student interviews has revealed that the explanation for a large portion of the effect is related to confusion about the meaning of symbols. Common confusions found in the symbolic version were rarely observed for the numeric version of the same question.

I will describe how the structure of numeric solutions aids students in correctly answering physics questions. I will also discuss the ways in which symbolic questions impose greater cognitive demands on students than do numeric questions.

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